By Reason of Insanity
Message Delivered on June 7, 2015
Mark 3:20-35 “By Reason of Insanity”
This past week we hosted Vacation Bible School, “G-Force,” God in us. We learned that if God is truly in us, we move, act, care, follow and share the example Jesus set before us, giving us his all, his life that we might have eternal life. The kids discovered that it is fun to learn about God and God’s amazing sacrificial love for all people. Keep these thought on the back burner of your minds.
Recently, there have been some murder trials and all the media hype surrounding them. The attorneys’ arguments presented to the jury went something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask that you find my client not guilty. Yes, my client had motive. It has been established that my client’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene and he pulled the trigger but that does not mean he should be convicted. He is absolutely, certifiably insane. I rest my case.” Not guilty by reason of insanity; what a plea. The theory behind this defense is that one who lacks the “malice aforethought” or the intent required to perform a truly criminal act because the person is either incapable of discerning the difference between right and wrong, or incapable of restraint, even in the face of such knowledge.” Using the defense of insanity raises some interesting questions:
[if !supportLists]· [endif]Can someone be held accountable for doing something bad if his/her mind is clouded with craziness?
[if !supportLists]· [endif]What is crazy anyway?
[if !supportLists]· [endif]What is the threshold for craziness that suddenly makes one incapable of being found culpable?
[if !supportLists]· [endif]What about subjectivity? One generation’s “crazy” is another generation’s “eccentric.”
[if !supportLists]· [endif]How about the issue of genius? Sometimes our most enlightened and creative people look, think and act in much the same way as our most unstable ones.
Why do I bring up the insanity plea? In this Scripture Jesus is accused of being crazy. Why would such a charge be made? In Mark’s gospel we learn that Jesus is growing in popularity as he performs miracles (kids learned about the healing of a blind man and a paralytic): cleanses lepers, restores withered hands and says strange things like “I am Lord of the Sabbath, your sins are forgiven.” and “Hey, disciples, I give you authority to cast out people’s demons.” Jesus was drawing an uncomfortable amount of attention to himself. Those who were closest to him (family and extended family) and those most threatened by him (people in authority: Pharisees and scribes, and other “bean counters” looking for ways to entrap Jesus) were seeking ways to restrain him from religious authorities. Can’t you hear people asking, “Is this guy crazy?”
Jesus’ loved ones are trying to stage an intervention, and fail. They went out to get him away from the religious establishment, who claimed that he was possessed by Beelzebul (an evil spirit). We know that Jesus was not crazy, but God in the flesh. The religious scholars were puzzled because usually sane people do not make claims to be deity or to publicly discuss demons. That is not normal behavior.
Sometimes crazy and genius look similar. Jesus is not mad, it is just that he is leader of his world, his kingdom, and that surprises everyone who hears it. Humanity had never seen such power or public display or heard such values being taught. Jesus was a homeless, self-made rabbi from Nazareth with “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.” We most likely would have called him a “nutcase.”
Jesus does not appear to take the insanity accusation very seriously; instead, Jesus takes the response of those concerned and uses it to illustrate a dividing line between saving faith and damning disbelief. Those who will be forgiven are those who can see that behind the incredible miracles and alarming message is the very Spirit of God (4:28-29). The Kingdom of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, will always disrupt and disturb a “sane” world. If “craziness” is persistently violating social norms with little regard for oneself, then the work of Jesus fits the description.
The world idolizes logic and reason, but God’s people live by faith and they love mystery.
The world abuses the weak and attempts to fix the poor. God’s people embrace the lowly as the greatest among us.
The world rewards the strongest and most capable. We Christians openly confess our struggles and repent of our sins.
The world says, “You are entitled to hate those that hurt you.” Christians are to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors.
The world is full of people stocking up earthly treasure, but Christians give it away in favor of heaven’s treasure.
The world says to “Love yourself and try not to hurt your neighbor.” Christians say, “Love your neighbor and be willing to sacrifice yourself.”
The world sleeps later on Sundays and Christians gather to sing praises to a God they cannot see, yet still believe is coming back.
God breaks into our world through the Son, the Word and Spirit-filled people. If the God we worship is not disrupting and confronting some part of our lives, then God must be one of our own creation, not the Creator of the universe.
The gospel can be very confusing: incarnation- “Jesus, though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. Being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5). Cross- what a confusing message. “To those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God at work” (1 Corinthians 1:18). God in the flesh gave his life as a gift for a rebellious, evil humanity. It is pure foolishness (Paul has said). Salvation- Every other religious system requires the one being rescued to do something–no–Christ died for us while we were still sinners and made us alive when we were dead to sin. Resurrection- we only need turn to Acts 2 and see how the world responded to the early believers. They shared everything and celebrated the sacrament eating flesh and drinking blood, and the world called them insane cannibals. The early believers confronted culture and paid the price.
What if the church today embraced the weirdness of the early Christians?
What if the Christians put out Christmas decorations, checked the mail in boxer shorts and sat in the driveway waving to passers by drinking wine out of a box? (My neighbors in Ohio did that.)
What would happen if a homeless person wandered in on Sunday? Would he/she be given a seat of honor?
Would the church create ministries that do more than entertain children and educate the adults?
Would the pastor preach the depths of God’s demands upon humanity?
Jesus’ friends and family wondered if he was crazy but we need to ask ourselves if we are crazy enough. Let us go forth out the door with the reminder that we have been set free as agents in a world turned upside down–in an insane world known as the Kingdom of God. If by some chance we come under fire for radically and faithfully following Jesus, we have a great defense: Not guilty by reason of insanity. Are you crazy for Christ? Do you have the “G-Force”? Amen.